Grandma’s Buttons

Posted on August 8, 2021

From January 29, 2017:

Grandma’s Buttons are a winner!

My entry in the PPFA print competition won first place in the Metro Atlantic Chapter! All those days hunting down buttons and embroidery thread payed off. Now it’s on to the National Finals in Vegas! (edited 1/2017 – now that the finals are over, I can finally post pictures of my frame. Though I didn’t win in Vegas, I met so many great framers and I was embraced as one of them. So worth it! Congratulations to Pete at Wall St. Gallery in Madison, CT on the win!)

Hard to believe this was almost 5 years ago. It was a great experience to enter my first industry competition, and it led me to meet so many great and inspiring framers. “Grandma’s Buttons” tasked us with framing a collection of vintage buttons. First, I had to enter the world of the vintage button collector trade, scouring antique shops and flea markets in New York. I collected a few that would harmonize together color and style wise. I had an affinity for colored glass and mother of pearl.


This moulding from Fotiou Frames had this scalloped outer edge that I felt belonged in Grandma’s Victorian interior. The flared profile was veneered with a walnut stained limba wood. I had to make my cuts precisely so that the patterns matched up in the corners.


Of course, unless your dimensions perfectly match the period of the pattern, you’re going to need to do some modification for the last corner to match up. A little carving with an exacto knife and some stain and patina allowed me to give the frame the appearance of a piece that was carved just for this frame the way fine furniture is.


Next, I had to make the frame deeper to include all the elements I had in mind. A “shadowbox frame” has to be deeper to house 3-D objects, but I also wanted to include a liner frame and a 12-ply mat above the cushioned fabric background. I built a simple 1/2″ back-frame, stained and finished the sides to match the outer edge of the frame and attached it using wood glue and pneumatic staples across the rabets.


For the background of the buttons, I wrapped the backing board and two layers of quilt batting with wine colored dupioni silk. I laced the fabric to the board, knowing that glues can bleed through and tapes can fail over time.


Using a hand-dyed embroidery thread that matched with the background, I sewed the buttons onto the board – this was the easiest decision since buttons are designed to be sewn down. The quilt batting gave the arrangement of buttons a slightly tufted look, like fine upholstery. Then I wrapped a 12-ply (3/16″) window mat in a cream colored version of the same dupioni silk. This board was thick enough to elevate the glazing away from the buttons. Finally, I stitched on a double line of the same wine-colored thread around the opening. I wanted the hand-sewn decoration to bring to mind an embroidery project “Grandma” might’ve engaged in. In the background, you can also see the Capiz shell (also referred to as Mother of Pearl) liner frame installed in the scalloped outer frame.


It was such an honor to win first place in my Chapter of the PPFA (Professional Picture Framer’s Association). The Metro Atlantic Chapter covered New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Eastern Pennsylvania. The win meant I had to ship my frame to the National PPFA Conference in Las Vegas, and while my frame didn’t win there, the participation ribbon and all the friends and mentors I met there were all worth it.



My congratulations again to Pete Beck of Wall St. Gallery in Madison, Ct. for the national first place win! Again, I never would’ve met him or all the other amazing framers of Wall St. Gallery (who collectively have more ribbons than they can display) if it weren’t for this little frame. Below is Pete’s winning frame.